The Yomiuri Shimbun The government on Friday released a rough calculation of vital statistics for 2018, revealing that the number of deaths minus births totaled 444,085, exceeding 400,000 for the first time.
The total fertility rate, which indicates the estimated number of children a woman will have in her lifetime, stood at 1.42, declining for the third consecutive year. As the population is expected to continue to decline, support for child-rearing and improvement of labor productivity will continue to be key issues.
The number of deaths was 1,362,482, up 22,085 from the previous year, recording the highest since the end of the World War II. The number of births stood at 918,397, down 27,668 from the previous year, marking the lowest since statistics began in 1899. As a result, the natural decrease was the largest ever, increasing by 49,753 from the previous year.
The population saw a natural increase of 458,208 in 1989, the first year of the Heisei era. But it took a downward turn in 2005, when it declined by 21,266. The number increased by 8,224 in 2006, but has been constantly decreasing since 2007.
The total fertility rate has dropped by 0.01 percentage point each year since 2015, when it stood at 1.45. By prefecture, Okinawa had the highest ratio at 1.89, while Tokyo had the lowest ratio at 1.20.
Looking at the number of births by age groupings of mothers divided by five years, the number of births increased slightly to 1,659, up 147 from the previous year, for mothers 45 or older, but declined from the previous year for all groups of mothers 44 or younger. The average age of women who gave birth to their first child was 30.7, the same as in the previous year.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said that the decline in births is partly due to the decrease in the population of 25- to 39-year-old women, who account for about 85 percent of births, and also to the trend toward later marriages.
The number of marriages reached a postwar low of 586,438, down 20,428 from the previous year. The average age of those who married for the first time was 31.1 for men and 29.4 for women, the same as in the previous year.
The government has set a goal of realizing a “desired fertility rate of 1.8,” which is calculated on an assumption that young people will marry according to their wishes and have as many children as they want.
In October this year, the government plans to introduce a program of free preschool education and child care along with improved support for families with small children.
In order to make up for the shrinking labor force, the government also aims to improve labor productivity through the steady implementation of revised laws related to work style reform that went into effect in April. Speech